Fishbowl – Bradley Somer
From his enviable view from a balcony on the 27th floor of an apartment block, Ian the Goldfish has frequent – if fleeting – desires for a more exciting life. Until one day, a series of unfortunate events gives him an opportunity to escape…
Our story begins, however, with the human inhabitants of Ian’s building. There is the handsome student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; an agoraphobic sex worker, the invisible caretaker; the pregnant woman on bed rest; and the home-schooled boy, Herman, who thinks he can travel through time.
And as Ian tumbles perilously downwards, he will witness all their lives, loves, triumphs and disasters…
My thanks to Ebury Press for my review copy which I received through Netgalley.
Ian is a goldfish – he is not having the best of days as he has just been knocked from his safe perch on the balcony of the 27th floor of an apartment block. As Ian plummets to the ground he gets a very brief adventure as he whizzes past the windows of the apartments below, spotting some of the occupants as he falls.
If we were just to follow Ian then Fishbowl would be a very short read. Fortunately for the reader there are many more interesting lives to read about as the apartment block that Ian lives (lived?) in is full of fascinating characters. We read about Connor – Ian’s owner – who has been cheating on his girlfriend and is frantically trying to kick his mistress out of his flat while his girlfriend makes her way up to visit him. The lift is out and Connor is on the 27th floor so this will buy him some time, during his state of panic Connor re-evaluates some of his life choices. As does his girlfriend who is hauling up the 27 floors and questioning whether she and Connor have a future.
We read the tragic story of an agoraphobic, Claire. She can no longer face being outside her apartment but has developed a coping mechanism for having her groceries delivered and ordering everything she needs online. She works as a telephone sex worker, the perfect career for someone that does not want to leave her apartment – steady money and a regular client base. But for Claire there are challenges ahead which will test her resolve to the limit and push her to face her fears.
Jimenez is the building maintenance man – he has been asked to repair the lift (again). If he can patch up the antiquated mechanism it will save his employers the cost of calling out an official engineer. Not that Jimenez will be thanked for his endeavours, it is expected that he will jump through the hoops despite any reservations he may have about his ability to repair the lift.
There is home-schooled Herman, learning from his grandfather. Pregnant Petunia Delilah who is hoping to have an uncomplicated home-birth and flashing past all their lives is Ian the goldfish on his plummet to the pavement.
Fishbowl is a clever collection of stories about people’s lives. The link is the apartment building and a small fish accelerating towards a pavement (a pavement of which he is blissfully unaware). This really is a great example of how people make a story.
Personally I struggled with Fishbowl. I do not read short stories so the brief look into all these different lives felt too much like a collection of loosely connected tales. That said, I recognise how clever Fishbowl was and Bradley Somer weaves these lives together with real skill. Not for me, but I would still recommend it to readers that enjoy reading about interesting lives.
Fishbowl is currently available in Hardback and digital formats from Ebury Press.